New Zealand. Home to hobbits, kiwis, and HBO’s Flight of the Concords. Just looking at their calendar will have you pining for a vacation, and I was self loving enough to indulge in that vacation. There was a façade that I would be studying for five months but that is hardly the truth.
When people ask me about New Zealand I describe it as a painting. Almost every place you go the landscape is unbelievably gorgeous. I’ve looked out at miles of endless hills and thought, “This can’t be real.” When I look at my pictures I wonder if someone sneaked onto my computer and photoshopped them. It’s truly breathtaking and sometimes even I can’t believe it.
More specifically I think New Zealand is a surrealist painting. Not only is the landscape “unreal” but so is everything else. Let’s be honest here, and I hope I don’t offend any kiwis, New Zealand doesn’t exactly hold any major international importance. They’re a peaceful, tree-hugging, and sheep shearing bunch of folks. I’ve looked at plenty of maps where the makers forget to add the islands at all. Therefore, when I was in New Zealand it felt like a break from the harsh reality and constant worries I feel in the US. My world was completely tweaked – in a good way.
Even parliament seemed like the wacky imagination of an artist. Who would have thought that grown men and women would behave like a bunch of kindergardeners fighting over the last cookie. There was even name calling, forced apologies, and threats to remove the politicians from the building. In the end, I can’t really take New Zealand seriously but living in a painting is a great experience especially when studying abroad.
The lack of reality in New Zealand let me ease up on my usual tenaciousness. I consistently got more than five hours of sleep every night of the week; that hasn’t happened to me for the last three years. I was almost always relaxed and planning my next adventure.
Through my studying abroad program I went wine tasting (twice!), ATVing, white water rafting, ate tons of great food, and went to a Maori meeting house. With other friends I went canoeing for three days straight barely seeing a dozen people total; it was a true scene out of Lord of the Rings or Jurassic Park. I rented cars and drove across the islands. I saw wild and rare penguins while kayaking. I went on four hour tramps (hikes) and slept in tiny huts. I saw the gaseous Milky Way Galaxy from a totally different perspective. I got a sore fanny from biking around a lake.
Most memorable of all, I got a flat tire and had to wait nearly five hours for rescue. But, with a good friend at my side and the car conveniently breaking down next to a lake with a picnic table, I have no complaints.
I admit studying abroad didn’t consist of a whole lot of academic studying; it also set me a little behind towards my biochemistry major (Yay science!). However, what I got from New Zealand was a whole new perspective about life. Before going to New Zealand I had never once thought of myself as patriotic. Now, due to simply living abroad and taking an International Politics class I’m actually proud to be an American.
My suggestion for those of you considering studying abroad is just do it! It may not be for those stubborn students who are completely stuck in their ways and hate change, but for the majority of people it will be a major turning point in your life. Go into a new country with a sense of adventure and openness to other cultures…oh, and don’t forget to have fun!
This entry was originally written for my friend Rayce’s new blog called Found in Translation. You should go check it out!